My first machine the 1959 Velocette Viper sports was for the most part a very reliable machine. In the 4 years I owned it I only had a couple of minor problems.
The first time I needed to get out the spanners was when I got a flat tyre. The unfortunate part of this incident was the location! I was travelling with Wishbone and Dirty Eddie and we where in the middle of Dartmoor! No pubs for miles!
I think Hannibal crossed the Alps faster than my Velocette could, given the elevation.
The second problem was a little more difficult to repair. The day came when I had to replace the clutch thrust bearing. I was told it was a simple job if you had the right tools. Back then I could not afford to take my bike into a garage to get it fixed, so I used all of my mechanical skills and tools to do the job myself.
How was I to know that the clutch was spring loaded? Not since WW2 has there been so much metal flying around Highfields! The bike sat around for about 3 weeks before I located all parts that needed to be shoved back into the clutch housing. Now here is where being a member of LPMCC really pays off. One of the members had the tools and could replace a clutch bearing in his sleep. He came over and had the bike better than new in 5 minutes.
A 1959 Velo Viper came from the factory with 6 volt lighting. The lights worked fine until it got dark. As soon as the sun went down I could not tell the difference if the lights were on or off! With my mechanical background of the era I thought about mounting a candle on the handlebars or even perhaps installing a miner's lamp on the front mudgard, but I decided against it because I did not want to blind other Velo rider's riding towards me.
The copper wire was up to the task (providing it wasn't raining) but the 6 and 12 volt systems of the day, combined with the very small weak batteries could not produce or store enough electrical energy, which meant we where kept in the dark.
In it's day, the Velocette was one of the finest motor cycles on the road, bred in racing, it handled like a dream and it had a very high top speed combined with unimaginable endurance.
The Velocette had many unique features not found on other motorcycles of that era.
- Decompression Lever This lever was located under the left handlebar, it was supposed to assist in starting the beast. But in reality it's real function was to provide an extra place to hang on when the kick start kicked back, by placing it under the left handlebar meant you would be launched 15 feet in the air and end up in a ditch, as opposed to be launched into oncoming traffic.
- Adjustable Rear Suspension I played with this feature for a long time. I found no difference in handling no matter where I sent the shocks. I did however find one benefit, if you move the shocks to the rear most position, the effective force of hitting a bump in the road was moved away from the rider's male parts and concentrated to his girlfriends area of the seat. If you had selected your girlfriend carefully, no damage was done.
- Two Pint Oil Reservoir This was a great innovation, this allowed oil to leak for months not just days.
- Carburettor The carburettor was factory set for sea level performance or perhaps below sea level, the only adjustment was the "idle mixture screw", every evening on my way home to the Highfields, half way up the Melbourne Road I could hear the bike starving for fuel. I think Hannibal crossed the Alps faster than my Velocette could, given the elevation.
Velocette introduced a tachometer on some model around the same time that the Japanese bikes began to take over in the UK. Most of the Japanese bikes of that era could produce from 10 to 13 thousand RPM.
I think Velocette thought by adding a tachometer it could compete with this new onslaught. Truth is, on a Velo at 70 mph you could count strokes with one hand! Instead of wasting all that money on a tachometer, they might have been better off installing a metronome!
My second machine was a Norton Domi 99. 600cc twin. This bike had more power than the Velocette and also turned out to be a very reliable machine. However, it didn't handle the corners as well as the Velocette. I cannot remember having any problems with the Norton except the occasional flat tyre. I think replacing the Velo with the Norton was a good decision but, the Norton could not replace the spirit of the Velocette.
I am certain that was the bike that I purchased from the old bike shop that used to break bikes and sell the spares, perhaps it was called Eros Motorcycles. I think that they had their shop down near West Bridge in Leicester and I think they later moved to an address in Highfields.
But if it was 741 CUT we travelled to Paris France and I will tell you the tale of getting white finger on a Velo! Plus doing a qualifying time on it in the I.O.M.
- Eric Tindall
Found your blog after a mate invited me to a vintage bike swapmeet tomorrow and I got thinking about old bikes.
I was born in '55 and was a natural biker, luckily having a mate with an interest too. In 1969 and 1970 I was getting whiplash checking out what was zipping past but as I lived in a town of 5,000... there wasn't much.
A couple of friends' older brothers had Goldstar, Norton Interstate, and a Hurricane Triumph triple with a lurid paint job and so on.
My second bike was an AJS 350 single in scrambler mode which died not long after. Somehow I was always attracted to the very nice Velos I saw.
I had a good laugh reading your stuff too. Thanks.
- Wayne Fay
Good story ...
well presented and made me giggle....
(not many things do nowdays)